Why I Stopped Using Buy Nothing Groups to Get Free Stuff

  • During the pandemic, I used my local Buy Nothing group to score free stuff of all kinds.
  • I thought I was saving money, but realized my finds were costing me time and energy to keep, energize, and often donate.
  • A scarcity mindset was convincing me to bring too much stuff home, and I ultimately left the group.
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When we moved to our new home a few years ago, we had 1,000 more square feet to furnish.

This was also four months before the start of the pandemic. Being stuck in place and admittedly a little bored, I discovered the local Buy Nothing Facebook groups. At the time I knew very little about Buy Nothing, which is an international project with a great mission: “Buy less and share more. It makes us all richer and the planet cleaner.”

I instantly fell in love with the idea of scoring free stuff in my town and being more eco-friendly doing so. Having moved to a larger home, there were definitely things we needed to fill our the empty rooms. I thought Buy Nothing would be the perfect answer. 

I started scrolling postings on an everyday basis, and regularly drove around town to get toys, books, and household items that people had listed. It kept the monotonous days of lockdown more interesting and provided my kids with a flow of new activities to keep them entertained. I also found household goods such as shelving for our daughter’s room, kitchen utensils, and decorations for the holidays. Needless to say, I was hooked. 

The free stuff quickly got out of hand

As the pandemic lockdowns continued, I realized my house was filling up with stuff. I was posting things we didn’t want so others could pick it up, but wasn’t keeping up with the influx of objects coming into our home.

I started to declutter by taking things to our local Goodwill or relisting on the Buy Nothing site. Acquiring free stuff through the Buy Nothing group was actually hindering our household by creating more clutter and mental angst trying to sort through, organize, and manage everything I had gotten from others for free.  

I also realized that my scarcity mindset was the reason why I was taking this stuff in the first place. The pandemic had given me increased anxiety, feeling out of control with life and worried about what would happen to my husband’s job as well as the economy as a whole. Thoughts like “What if I could save money in the future by getting this for free now?” or “I may not need this yet, but could need it someday,” were taking over my normally rational brain. 

I had to change my mindset and get comfortable paying for the things we need

So what did I do? I stopped scrolling the group and picking up free stuff, and started decluttering my home and my scarcity mindset. Eventually, I unfollowed the group so it was no longer popping up in my newsfeed and enticing me to engage in the “get free stuff” behavior.

We’ve always been a family who buys less (especially for holidays and birthdays), but I now accept that when I need something I can spend the money on it, whether finding it used or purchasing something high-quality (and ethically made when possible) that will last longer. 

This mindset shift was not one that came naturally to me. I’ve always loved thrifting, buying used, getting free stuff, and scoring deals. Before kids, I would find free furniture to upcycle and sell. It was a fun hobby! At some point I realized, however, that free stuff doesn’t come free. It costs you in terms of space and the mental load it takes to organize and keep.

Having a scarcity mindset was allowing extra junk into my house, and getting rid of this extra stuff took time away from other things, like spending time with my family or making money — money I could spend on higher quality items or items I needed when I actually needed them.

If I need something now I will often post about it in the Buy Nothing group, but only when it’s something I know we will actually use. 

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